Friday, 1 February 2013

Marlowe and Me

My life summary - I succeed through stress.

I'm the guy who, before buying required reading online, checks that the ISBN numbers correspond.

I'm that person who marks up a to-do list and then adheres to it under a harsh regime of self-flagellation.

I usually get the bus before the one that'll get me in on time, just to be safe.

Three days before my higher exams, my parents were so concerned for my mental wellbeing - in some ways a welcome break from 'stop dancing with diabetes' talk- they thrust a controller in my hand, marched me to the TV and commanded I take the evening off.

I've chartered up a document entitled 'THIS IS THE PLAN THAT WILL HELP YOU EVADE CERTAIN DEATH' to help me deal with oncoming assignments.

All this, just to underscore to how little of a free spirit I am. I don't take impromptu drives into the country; the Maverick makes me want to weep. For the most part, I've got no problem sticking to the natural order of things.

Though this fear is constant, it's not consistent. When exam time hits, everything magnifies - I picture lecturers leering in masked rabbit costumes, blandly informing me of how many hours till the world will end.

Oh, Donnie.
The final point here - because the stress has a deadline and that deadline has to come, the whole endeavour feels like watching an alarm dwindle down to a bellow.

But while exams in general leave me in a state of angst-ridden near-catatonic torment, the two assessments I had a few weeks ago were worse because they were more than just an ego-boost. In an effort to cast off the shackles of a city where the only blue in the sky is our flag, I was (and still am) applying for a exchange to the states.

So, with the two exams three days apart I buckled down for a couple of weeks for sessions of beverage-fuelled study. By the end, my brain was soaked in caffeine and a few odd facts besides.

On the Monday, I'd have to construct an argument round Marlowe's Doctor Faustus - a play about a man watching the clock tick down to his damnation (I can empathise), and then on Thursday answer some questions about the present state of Scottish journalism.

Faustus be Damned

The former was worth over twice as much as the latter, so I studied both to the extent I felt was necessary for each.

So, let's flick forward to Monday. It didn't go well. Despite the seven pens (see above concerning stress) I scattered on the desk, none of them felt comfortable. The questions were tough, my brain wasn't kicking into gear and all the scholars I'd memorised wafted into the brain of the person beside. It didn't help that this was the moment my stomach decided to try out the soundtrack to Inception. My writing descended into Arabic-esque scrawl, and I swore I spelt 'with' as 'wif' once.

When my lecturer asked me how I thought it had gone, I came back with 'I think I'm going to have a nap now'.

Except I didn't. I got home and charged into journalism facts, and powered on through until Thursday. Here, though, there was nothing special to report - everything went well. The clear handwriting charged onto the page so quickly I swear my pen had a few horsepower, and I answered the questions with the precision I was hoping for.

With exams now over, I implemented various techniques to divert the angst of the inexorable, but I couldn't shake the pain of knowing that one exam had gone well, the other was a bit of a disappointment.

And I was right in that assessment, but in the opposite way from what I was expecting. The journalism mark turned out to be unremarkable, but the Marlowe mark made me do a little celebratory waltz in my room. Maybe they enjoyed my authentic renaissance spellings.

Like this, though admittedly not as suave

Since I've got the results, I've spent some time trying to get some application and ideas out of the exam process, allow me to share them with you quickly before my bus stops. The points are threefold, which shows my baptist upbringing is getting the better of me.

First, it's important we recognise how our opinions, even opinions on tags that occurred from our own selves, can be radically misleading. To think that 'you' know 'you' best is undercut by the distortion of events that you once directly experienced.

Now, that's quite heavy. Allow me to lighten things with reflection number two - exams, though absolutely horrific, are a privilege. To be given the opportunity to be assessed on how much you know and have prepared for in some areas of life is highly unusual. Having the chance to demonstrate your learning is a fantastic opportunity, and if someone could remind me of that in a few months I'd be grateful.

Now, even that's a little abstract, so now would be the time to give one more thought.

Every time you Maverick an exam, even if you do well, a scholarly fairy dies. And you don't want to kill a fairy, do you?

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